(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – Brushy One String brings his mix of reggae, blues, rap, and traditional African rhythms, as well as his classical guitar with only one string (a D string), to Club B-10 at MASS MoCA on Saturday, January 11, 2014, at 8pm. The Jamaica-born performer – who with his voice and single string is a veritable one-man band – has garnered countless fans across the world through live performances, YouTube videos, and as a featured musician in the documentary film “RiseUp,” about the underground music scene of Jamaica.
Creative, talented, and full of energy, Brushy (born Andrew Chin) released his first studio album last April, combining a soulful sweetness with a rough and powerful blues feel, bound together with rhythm and ingenuity that emphasize that Jamaica has far more to offer than reggae. Brushy comes by his talent honestly – his father was renowned Jamaican soul singer Freddy McKay, and his mother, Beverly Foster, toured with the likes of Tina Turner as a backup singer. His one-stringed guitar isn’t just a gimmick either.
“I didn’t really know how to play, and I played so hard, all the strings broke,” Brushy says of his childhood. “So the guitar just went under the bed.”
On his very first studio album, “Destiny,” the veteran musician evokes the sweetness of soul singers like Percy Sledge and Louis Armstrong, the grit and wit of Delta bluesmen, all woven together with a Jamaican pulse and ingenuity that shows that the island’s music is about far more than reggae. Heartfelt blues combine with dancehall-style vocals on “Grey in my Blue,” while uplifting, catchy ballads like “Life is for Every Man” channel a soulful intensity and profound faith.
Brushy did not have it easy: Orphaned at an early age, the thoughtful singer-songwriter did not learn to read until adulthood. But he came by his musical abilities honestly. His father, revered Jamaican soul singer Freddy McKay, passed away when Brushy was still very young, but his mother, Beverly Foster, sang all the time (she had toured with the likes of Tina Turner as a backup singer). Brushy tried his hand and voice at many styles, including playing pans on the street as a child. He even played guitar for a while as a youngster. “I didn’t really know how to play, and I played so hard, all the strings broke,” he recalls. “So the guitar just went under the bed.”
That is, until Brushy had a vision, a dream in which he was told to play the one-string guitar. Shaken, he told some friends, who scoffed, but one insisted it was fate, and that he had to make that dream come true. Within a day, Brushy had created his one single-string arrangement of a popular tune on the radio. “The next day, I took a big broad hat and sunglasses and went to the market, and started to sing,” Brushy remembers.
It was the start of musical trajectory that soon showed that Brushy’s unconventional playing style was no mere gimmick. Citing Teddy Pendergrass and Shabba Ranks as major touchstones, his lively mix of influences and full sound — buoyed in part by the string’s pleasant buzz, Brushy’s array of percussive taps and knocks on the guitar’s body — made him utterly self-sufficient, in a scene where most performers long to be hip-hop MCs or dancehall style DJs.
Brushy recounts a time when he turned derision for his peculiar instrument into applause, when the local government cut the power to a stage show. Brushy convinced the promoter to let him play, to keep the crowd there. Lit by a dozen flashlights, Brushy won the audience over — and played for more than an hour, even when the lights came back on in a blaze. (An evening that inspired, “One String Play”)
A full bar, and dinner and snacks from Lickety Split, are available before and during the show. Tickets are $20 reserved, $12 in advance, $16 day of, and $10 for students. Members receive a 10% discount. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA box office, located on Marshall Street in North Adams, from 11am to 5pm (open every day, except Tuesdays). Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 x1 during box office hours or purchased online at MASS MoCA.
Patrons can make a full day of their trip to the museum with Free Day 2014 from 11am to 7pm, also on January 11. The annual event includes free admission to the galleries, art-making activities, dance performances, live music, and tours all day.
Brushy One String’s performance is sponsored by the Hans and Kate Morris Fund for New Music.
MASS MoCA is one of the world’s liveliest (and largest!) centers for making and enjoying the best new art of our time, across all media: music, art, dance, theater, film, and video. Hundreds of works of visual and performing art have been created on its 19th-century factory campus during fabrication and rehearsal residencies in North Adams, making MASS MoCA among the most productive sites in the country for the creation and presentation of new art. More platform than box, MASS MoCA strives to bring to its audiences art and shared learning experiences that are fresh, engaging, and transformative.
MASS MoCA’s galleries are open 11am to 5pm every day except Tuesdays. In July and August, MASS MoCA’s galleries are open 10am to 6pm every day. Gallery hours are often extended on evenings featuring performing arts events. Gallery admission is $15 for adults, $10 for students, $5 for children 6 to16, and free for children 5 and under. Members are admitted free year-round. For additional information, call 413.662.2111 x1 or visit MASS MoCA.